The Tempest by William Shakespeare. Bell Shakespeare Company directed by Peter Evans at The Playhouse, August 23 to September 2, 2006, 7.30pm.
The magic arts came to life in this production of The Tempest on opening night last Friday. Our imagination was transported to a theatrical island, a small space within a confusing universe, where we were given the opportunity to come to grips with personal and political reality, just as Shakespeare intended. Bell Shakespeare deserves our gratitude.
Evans has done the right thing by the play. The acting is simple and sincere, taking place in a beautiful forest filled with ethereal music. Designer Robert Kemp, composer Basil Hogios and the lighting designer, Canberran Mark Truebridge have created an environment exactly suited to the play’s moods.
Acting which looks so simple requires awesome technique. The cast ranges from a Gonzalo played with great clarity by Ron Haddrick, who received an MBE in 1974 for his already longstanding services to the arts, to Saskia Smith, a recent NIDA graduate, whose characterisation and singing voice as the spirit Ariel focussed our attention on the theme of power, justice and freedom.
The drunkards Trinculo and Stephano (James Wardlaw and Tony Taylor) were very funny. We felt for the honest King Alonso (Paul Bertram), and found the scheming Antonio and Sebastian (David Whitney and Andrew McDonell) hateful. They were the cause of Prospero’s banishment and justifiable desire for revenge.
John Bell, starring as Prospero, has a harshness in his voice, a quality which has annoyed me in past productions. But his ability to communicate Prospero’s feelings and thoughts, often with no more than a turn of his head, soon concentrated my mind on important matters. Ferdinand and Miranda’s love, for example, so freshly played by Stephen Phillips and Freya Stafford. Or dealing with Nathan Lovejoy’s high-energy Caliban, an angry slave who clearly deserved proper treatment. And finally in speaking directly to us, the audience, asking us to release him from his role, which we did with genuine and respectful applause for Bell and the whole company.
This is among the most satisfying performances of The Tempest I have seen.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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